It’s been nearly five years since the Saint Viator cheerleading squad has qualified for state, and 11 years since the Lions were crowned the IHSA medium division state champions.
Yet, excitement is building again after the team tallied their highest score of the season Saturday at the Buffalo Grove sectional. They wound up among the top five teams and won a berth to the state championships.
“There were so many great teams that could have easily taken a top five spot,” says Coach Kearsten Nardulli, “but the girls performed their hearts out, and that gave them the edge they needed to come out on top.
“They executed multiples stunts, jumps and a pyramid, as well as elements of dance in their routine,” she added. “They had a lot of fun in this routine, and it showed every time they performed.”
Practice continues in earnest this week as the team prepares for Friday’s preliminaries. At stake is a chance to advance to Saturday’s finals, for the top 10 teams in each division. The tournament takes place at Grossinger Motors Arena in Bloomington, IL.
“I don’t know if I can even put into words what it meant to us when we heard our names called as a finalist,” Nardulli adds. “We have been counted out all season long.”
Nardulli and her assistant coach, Rachel Matug, took over the program in November, and together, they bring a history of success to the team. Nardulli formerly coached Matug when she was a cheerleader at Fenton High School in Bensenville, and coached her to her first of many state championships.
“To have that full circle moment of having her qualify for the first time as a coach, with her former coach, is something I will always cherish,” Nardulli says.
Under the leadership of Nardulli and Matug, the team has made changes and perfected their routine each week of the season, building momentum leading up to sectionals.
“We have definitely been the underdogs all season long,” Nardulli says, “but I refused to let that stop us from achieving our goal. I was especially determined to make it to state for the seniors.
“They landed in sixth place at sectionals the last couple of years, just barely missing a top spot,” Nardulli adds. “I told them from day one, I wasn’t going to let their senior season end unless it was on the state mat.”
The team will do just that at 10:45 a.m. Friday, when they compete in the preliminary round in Bloomington. Go, Lions!
The squad includes:
Mary Kate Corliss